Finally, after weeks of refusal, the Morrison Coalition government listened to the Australian union movement’s call to ensure workers were covered by a wage subsidy program.
Although the finer details of the announcement, and how it will be implemented, still need to be carefully scrutinised, the union movement has celebrated the policy shift.
However, unions remain concerned that the $1500 a fortnight subsidy may not be enough and suggest that the amount should be increased to the median wage of $1375 a week.
Additionally, unions want to ensure all casuals who could have reasonably expected to work now, but have lost their jobs because of the pandemic, are covered as many of these workers may not have worked the last 12 months.
Over the past few weeks the Australian union movement worked with business groups across the country to call for a wage subsidy of at least 80% to keep people employed, keep income flowing and facilitate self isolation without forcing people to go broke.
However, less than three weeks ago, the Morrison government refused to consider the notion of a wage subsidy.
With the subsidy announced the ACTU has called on employers to keep people employed and keep paying their wages. Importantly, the union movement is keen to see workers who have been let go re-employed.
According to the ACTU, the new wage subsidy program needs to have safeguards to ensure people are kept in employment and that any taxpayer money flows to the workers. The government has made clear that this is a wage subsidy and not a wage replacement program and unions expect to see people maintain their wage levels during this program.
In welcoming the measure, ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus declared during a Facebook livestream that the change in policy was an admission that the ‘trickle-down’ economic policies of the Morrison government had failed. She believed that it was due to the collective action of union members across the country that helped bring about the policy back-flip from the government.
Ms McManus also re-iterated that the union movement would name and shame any employer who failed to properly implement the new system.